Colorectal Cancer Awareness for Those Under 45

Colorectal Cancer Awareness for Those Under 45

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Regular screening recommendations start at age 45, but some people may need the screening sooner. People under 50 now make up about 15% of colorectal cancer cases. In this DocTalk video, Brandon Teng, MD, with Valley’s Gastroenterology Clinic discusses what might be contributing to the rise in colorectal cancer cases in younger people, as well as symptoms and risk factors you should have evaluated by your primary care physician.

An abbreviated summary of the conversation can be found below the video.

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We’ve seen reports indicating a rise in colorectal cancer among younger adults in the United States. What have you observed with this trend over the past 10 to 15 years?
There’s been an increase in colorectal cancer among people under 50, now making up about 15% of cases, despite older screening guidelines. Meanwhile, cases in those over 60 have dropped, thanks to early screening and prevention efforts. Alarmingly, the rate for those under 50 has been rising by about 2% annually for the last 8-10 years.

What are key risk factors contributing to the increased incidence of colorectal cancer in people under age 50? How much do lifestyle choices versus genetics play a role?
Several factors likely raise the risk of early-onset colorectal cancer, with lifestyle playing a big role. Studies suggest that people born in the 1990s face a two to four times higher risk of this cancer before age 50 compared to those born in the 1950s. The causes may include obesity, smoking, low vitamin D, and diets high in red meats, processed foods, and sugary drinks.

Many younger individuals may not be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer, or they might dismiss them. What symptoms should prompt someone to seek medical advice, especially those in the millennial and Gen Z populations?
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include rectal bleeding (bleeding from your bottom), lower abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, and changes in bowel habits or in how your stool looks. If you have any of these, see your primary care physician or a gastroenterologist for evaluation.

The American Cancer Society now recommends starting regular screening at age 45 for those at average risk. Could you explain the importance of this guideline and whether there are circumstances under which individuals should start screening even earlier?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends starting colon cancer screening at age 45 instead of 50 due to the rising cases of early-onset colorectal cancer. People who are at high risk, including those with a family history of colorectal cancer, multiple relatives with colon polyps, or symptoms mentioned earlier, should start screening even earlier. This often means 10 years before the age a relative was diagnosed, which could be before age 45.

What lifestyle changes or preventive measures can younger adults take to reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer? Are there any myths about prevention that need to be addressed?
To lower your risk of colon cancer, adopt a healthy lifestyle by quitting tobacco, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. A diet low in red and processed meats, high in fiber, and low in sugary drinks and foods can help prevent colon cancer. Including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet also reduces risk. Despite some common myths, colon cancer can affect young, healthy people without symptoms. It’s important to discuss risk factors and prevention with your doctor.

If someone has symptoms, risk factors, or a family history of colorectal cancer, what do you recommend they do next?
If you have concerning symptoms, risk factors, or a family history of colon cancer, talk to your primary care doctor. They may refer you to a gastroenterologist to discuss the right timing for diagnosis, treatment, or screening.

Understanding Our DocTalk Videos
The information shared in the video above represents the opinions of the individual healthcare provider(s) featured. Our DocTalk presenters will sometimes give a general overview including risks, symptoms, and treatments for the medical conditions they are addressing. Therefore, they may not cover specific details that would be available in other resources or in an appointment with a provider about your own healthcare conditions. Please also note that the written summary may not capture every detail contained in the video, and additional information might only be in the video format. Our goal is to inform, educate, and inspire healthier living. If you have any questions about the video content, please contact us HERE.

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